It’s striking to me that almost entirely absent from Proverbs are the key focal points of Old Testament religious life—things like the temple and priests, the sacrificial system and the Sabbath. They are in there, but they are whispers.
However, over and over again, Lady Wisdom shouts. And where does she shout? Not in the temple, or to the priests, or on the Sabbath.
Wisdom shouts in the market place; at the city gates; the places of commerce; at farms; in fields; during harvest; and about oxen and barns. In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom raises her voice over the other 6 days, or we might say, the Labor Days.
My local paper yesterday tells me the Central Labor Union of New York City was the first to officially celebrate the day. And the date? Tuesday September 5, 1882. Rick Bloomingdale wrote,
On this Labor Day , we are renewing our commitment to creating good jobs, restoring retirement security for all workers, improving educational and job-training opportunities, and restoring the bargaining strength of working men and women. (The Patriot-News, August 31, 2014)
Sounds good to me. But we can go back farther than 1882 to learn about the dignity and value of work.
As a pastor, I hear often hear people imply that what they do does not matter. But they are wrong.
At our church this summer, we preached through the Book of Proverbs. In the final sermon in the series, I covered only one verse. The verse was Proverbs 11:1. It reads,
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.
This verse teaches that God loves integrity, or in the words of the text, he loves "just weights." They make him smile.
I think this is the case because when work is done with integrity, it properly reflects back to God his own image. In other words, God is a God of integrity, and when he sees it in people, particularly his children, it makes him smile because he sees his own image.
This is hugely important as we think about the dignity and value of work. This means that in whatever job you are doing, you should never feel as though you are a mere “hamster on a wheel.”
8 Homegrown Quotes on Work
During the research for the sermon, I reached out to over a dozen people in our church that work in different fields to ask them this question:
In what ways does your vocation (when done with integrity) contribute to the good of society?
Below is what 8 people wrote:
A person in government wrote,
My vocation can contribute to the good of society by providing an honest government that is focused and concerned about meeting the needs of the citizens and using their tax dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible to benefit all of society.
An insurance salesman wrote,
We can help people to avoid the situations that could cause serious financial harm by “covering” many types of issues/damage.
A non-profit worker wrote,
We contribute to the good of society in general by filling a void that commercial organizations cannot or will not fill. Because we are here, fewer children will grow into juvenile delinquents, take up space in prison, or cause a detriment to society. We are a viable organization in that there are lower crime rates, and higher levels of moral behavior by young people who come through our programs.
A married couple that work as scientists wrote,
Our vocations provide the means to acquire rocks and minerals for building materials, energy resources, water resources, determine geologic hazards, and provide clean-up of environmental pollution to protect people’s health.
A lawyer wrote,
Law helps to protect the rights of some when wronged and when there is no other human recourse.
A real estate person wrote,
My vocation contributes to the good of society by helping people find suitable housing and advising them, or giving them pertinent information, so they can make good financial and practical decisions.
A stay-at-home mother wrote,
Parenting with integrity contributes to the good of society in many ways. Helping children become people who value truth and learn how to work hard, honestly, and respect others will create a next generation who will stand up for those things. Being able to say “no” to my kids (like to excessive TV, candy, toys, etc.) is a way for them to be able to learn that they don’t always get what they want (like in relationships, the workplace, etc.) It helps them develop a respect for others and for authority.
A banker wrote,
Bankers can help protect people from themselves by providing good financial advice. We can help educate people and provide financing for projects. Banks can help grow the individual and corporate wealth of society.
Many more things could be said. But when we have a biblical understanding of work, then we know that what we do matters—it matters to people, and it matters to God.
How does your vocation contribute to the good of society? Or in the words of Apple marketing, what will your verse be?